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David Bailiff explains how Rice has dealt with an unusual start to the season

Rice University Training Session Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

There isn’t a proper blueprint on how to deal with a crazy and very unusual opening to the 2017 season like the Rice Owls have.

Rice opened the season in Australia on August 26th, taking a 62-7 loss on the chin to Stanford. But the drama started to unfold as soon as their season opener came to an end.

With Hurricane Harvey dropping insane amounts of rainfall on the Houston area, the Owls were forced to bunker down in Fort Worth while the storm passed.

A number of Texas’ FBS programs reached out to the Owls while they were virtually stranded once they got back to the states.

“When we got back from Australia, we had a lot universities texting us; TCU, Baylor, SMU, East Texas, UTEP all offered us their facilities.” Rice head coach David Bailiff said. “We got back from Australia and were able to get in a couple workouts (in Fort Worth) where we did work some UTEP last week. We bussed into Houston and divided the team up into work teams and they helped our guys clean out their houses. The next day, everybody was around the city doing food drives. We were in Meyerland cleaning homes and in different parts of the city.”

While the Owls found a temporary home in Fort Worth, it was certainly tough to focus on football with so much havoc left behind from Harvey.

“We really had two spirited practices in Fort Worth. We just had high anxiety. We weren’t living it.” Bailiff said. “You come back now and you see the devastation of the city, and that’s why we’re going to meet today. We’re going to figure out a way as a team where when we get over here, that we can really concentrate on and emphasize football. They are human and we are going to do the best that we can do.”

Bailiff also praised the Houston community for being strong and the people who have reached out to amazing levels in helping Houston recover.

“Before I talk about football, I’d like to talk about what an amazing community we live in. You look at all the people helping people; you look at (Jim McIngvale) and J.J. Watt, people really stepping to the plate to help people rebuild their lives. I think that’s absolutely amazing with this terrible, catastrophic storm, that you see the best in people rising up together to build people’s lives.” Bailiff said.

Check out the rest of his press conference transcript below.

On the challenges of moving forward after Hurricane Harvey:

“We really had two spirited practices in Fort Worth. We just had high anxiety. We weren’t living it. You come back now and you see the devastation of the city, and that’s why we’re going to meet today. We’re going to figure out a way as a team where when we get over here, that we can really concentrate on and emphasize football. They are human and we are going to do the best that we can do.”

On if getting back to football will help clear their mind:

“I believe it is. School is starting today. One of the things that we talked to them about in Fort Worth was that we’re coming back to a new normal. You try to prepare them for what we were going to witness once we got here. Once again, they just had anxiety. The people of Houston who were here were living it. But, it is different. We have kids right now who are displaced and we’re trying to find places for them. They are staying with teammates and while that is a good temporary solution, it’s not a good long-term solution. So we’re trying to help them find some housing. That’s part of the new normal and it’s why we come here and we need to practice football and let them have fun. They came here to play the game of football. I know that there were times in my life, like when my parents passed away in-season, that I couldn’t wait for football because it took my mind off of it. I’m sure they are going to be the same way. It’s been pretty traumatic for some of them. But, our university has been great. We’ve gotten great support from the university and the athletic department. It wasn’t just the football team that was affected, it was the entire university. We’re going to do all that we can for all the Rice community.”

On what it’s like for the coaches to get back to football:

“I’m going to tell you; I was extremely proud of how this coaching staff handled this. There were several who had wives that were in churches and shelters. We were in Fort Worth and they stuck with it, making sure that this football team was taken care of. The difference between 2008 and this one was that we lost communication in 2008. So you had anxiety but you didn’t have panic because you could still talk to your wife and your family. In 2008, you couldn’t do that. We had coaches renting cars in Nashville trying to get home to check on their wife. It was a hurricane that got us then and a flood that got us now. But, the coaches were just incredible. And so was this team. They were resilient. They asked a lot of questions and we tried to answer them as best as we could. They were getting a lot pictures of what their homes and cars looked like so we knew what we were coming into. I think that also was what led us to break into work teams so fast and get things taken care of.”

On UTEP:

“We’ve got to defend the run. They create a lot of gaps on you and play a lot of power football; a lot of wing sets. They have a very active quarterback who can beat you with his feet. I think he makes great decisions with the football. We have to make sure that were bracketing things correctly and that we’re a more physical football team; that we’re tackling and driving our feet. We had a lot of contact against Stanford where we didn’t make the tackle. We’ve got to get our technique better when we are tackling people.”

On what he liked from the quarterbacks:

“I thought early that (Sam Glaesmann) did a great job of making sure there were no turnovers and just managing the game. He’ll get some tremendous growth from that. I wasn’t displeased with him. I would have liked the whole football team to have played better and played more physical.”

On what the team needs to improve on:

“You look at the missed tackles that we had defensively. We had people at the point of contact. You’ve got to be great tacklers. We were getting there but we weren’t wrapping up or driving our feet. It was the little things that we weren’t doing. A lot of those jump balls that Stanford hit, we had great coverage. You call those 50-50 balls where 50% of them we’re supposed to be able to knock down and we didn’t. It was blown coverages. You just have to make plays with balls in the air. We have to continue to work on our timing and make plays offensively and defensively. I think we’re a good football team, we just had a rocky start.”